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Rodriguez v US – no such thing as a de minimis expansion of traffic stop under the 4th Amendment

Rodriguez v. the United States, No. 13-9972, United States Supreme Court, Vacated and Remanded, April 21, 2015. Officer Struble, a K-9 police officer, made a traffic stop after observing Rodriguez driving on the highway shoulder. After checking Rodriguez’s license, tag, and insurance and the licenses of the passengers, Struble issued Rodriguez a warning for driving on the shoulder and asked if he could conduct a drug dog sniff of the car. Rodriguez refused. Struble called a backup officer to come and assist while he performed the drug dog search. It took 7-8 minutes for the assisting Officer to arrive. The Federal Magistrate Judge recommended granting the motion to suppress the drugs on the basis that there was no reasonable suspicion supporting the detention once the warning was issued.  The District Court denied the motion finding that the 7-8 minute delay after the traffic stop was de minimis intrusion of personal liberty and not a violation of the 4th Amendment. Rodriguez entered a condition and appealed to the 8th Circuit which affirmed.

The United States Supreme Court reversed holding that there is no such thing as a de minimis intrusion of personal liberty in a traffic stop.  In the absence of reasonable suspicion, police extension of a traffic stop to conduct a drug dog sniff search violates the Constitution’s prohibition against unreasonable seizures. Police may only conduct investigations normally related to a traffic stop such as checking drivers’ licenses, checking for warrants, inspecting vehicle registration, and insurance documentation.  A Drug Dog search is not an ordinary incident of a traffic stop.

-Author: George Creal

Atlanta DUI Lawyer | Georgia DUI Lawyer